Qwest’s new LS Series 820 RLS packs a lot of party vibe in a compact space.
While the Splash Pad bar definitely scored — in addition to being a watering hole with a table big enough to go smorgasbord, it could also function as a great fishing station — it was designed to be used at rest. But a number of owners wanted a bar that could be used underway. So the wet bar was moved to the port side, inside the fence, where guests could prop their elbows and watch the scenery go by.This year’s hit is the 820 RLS, a party platform with an optional four-stool Rear Bar that is certain to be the center of social activity, whether dining, playing cards or practicing your mixology. A large working surface has four lighted cupholders and two huge storage drawers below. The lower bin is actually a low-profile cooler for easy beverage accessibility. There’s a lip all around the countertop, which acts as an abbreviated fiddle rail to halt items from skidding off the edge of the world, but if you have items on the bar while on the move, placing them atop a silicone mat will keep them rooted in place.
If watersports are on your agenda, you can upgrade to the triple-tube configuration and pump up the ponies to 150. In recent tests with a new-generation Suzuki DF140, the triple-tube version reached 25 mph in 6.5 seconds, with a top speed of 40 mph, nearly double the speed of our twin-tube cruiser-centric version. This puts any watersport option within your wheelhouse.
Because of the modest horsepower level, the 820 has cable steering, which proved to be adequate for spinning the 820 into turns. The 23-inch logs have full keels, so tracking is precise, whether pointing it straight at your destination or coming about-face. Because of the twin-tube configuration, it leans to the outside a little in hard turns. The tubes don’t have the lifting strakes you find on the triple-tube models, so it rides lower in the water, especially if you are loaded up with the full passenger complement of 10 people. To prevent water from entering the cockpit when running, Qwest gives you oversized nosecone splash guards, which also create lift to prevent submarining if you hit a large cruiser wake.
The 820 RLS is all about entertaining, whether cruising at a leisurely pace or beached at a social sandbar. The stereo system on our test boat is exceptional. An Infinity Bluetooth head allows you to stream your personal set list from a mobile device anywhere on the boat. In addition to the four Infinity cockpit speakers, there are two pop-up cylinder speakers at the stern that are directional, so they can face the cockpit when everyone’s all aboard, or they can be rotated aft to give swimmers access to the jam. Reboarding is easy thanks to the aluminum ladder with tall swimming pool–style grabrails.
Some pontoons have a standing-room-only capability when packed to capacity, but on the 820 RLS there’s actually more than enough seats for everyone. Four sit on the bar stools, two sit in the aft lounger behind the swivelable captain’s chair and four more can hang out on twin chaise lounges in front.
Our test boat comes with the new-for-2014 Special Edition seating package, which gives you ultra high-backed lounges that feature pleated accents, giving you really upscale, comfortable seating. The lounges are also a little wider for extra real estate. Despite being fairly compact, the chaise lounges are long enough for a six-footer to recline in comfort, if you cheat a bit and angle your feet toward the centerline. Bumping up to the 822 model gives you a couple of more feet of stretching-out room up front. Our test boat features the optional Sea Grass vinyl flooring, which gives it a tropical feel, is comfortable on bare feet and provides easy cleanup when the day’s done.
The Qwest LS Series 820 RLS with the Special Edition package gives the captain an awesome throne for taking control. The high-backed helm chair comes with flip-up armrests and is really comfortable, except for the raised pad toward the top that prodded me a little between my shoulder blades. And a raised helm platform gives the driver a height advantage for peering over guests sitting in the forward chaise lounge. The LS Series helm station is generously provisioned with a standard Humminbird 386ci color GPS/fishfinder set into the gray wood dash.
If you will be carrying a full load of passengers or want to participate in watersports, going with the triple-tube setup makes sense. Not only will you have double the speed with at least a 140 hp outboard, but the boat will ride higher in the water, making it a better choice for larger bodies of water that can get choppy.